By Jimmy Tuten
1. In the church we have placed great emphasis upon worshiping God acceptably according to the N.T. pattern. We have engaged only in those things that are authorized in the Word of God. This is right and it should continue.
2. It is apparent, however, that we have overlooked some other aspects of worship that are also important.
(a) Simply going through a form of worship, even if it is the correct form, is insufficient to please God.
(b) Our lives and our attitudes must be acceptable (cf. Judah, who worshiped according to the Law, but their lives did not measure up to the standard). So God rejected their worship (Isa. 1:10-17).
3. When we draw nigh to worship God, we should realize that while we live always in His presence, we are drawing near to Him in a very special way. We assemble together for the specific purpose of calling on His name in prayer offering up songs of praise to Him and studying His Holy Word.
4. To help facilitate this, preparation is required on the part of the song leader and those in the assembly. The assembly should be in readiness for the announcing of the first songs and join heartily in the singing. The song leader should select and conduct the singing of songs that the assembly knows and can sing.
5. Since worship, just like any other important event in our lives, requires preparation in order that we might enter into it fully and in a manner well-pleasing to the One who is worshiped, certain suggestions should be followed. This will insure that our worship is correct and that we are getting the greatest strength from it.
I. Look at some stumbling blocks to meaningful worship.
A. Ritualism. If our worship is cold, formal, mechanical and/or ceremonial, then this involves ritualism. It means that we have fallen into a rut by having the same order and procedure each time we meet (explain). Worship becomes a mere routine each Sunday. Then we go away thinking we are right with God for another week. God forbid!
1. Mal. 1: 7-13.
2. Is God’s name honored by routine, half-hearted prayers, for “ample? Do we rob Him of our offerings? Do we believe that any empty gesture is acceptable to Him when we come before Him?
B. General distractions. Judging from the way some behave, some view worship like a social event where one can come and go as he sees fit. Some make it a note writing period, some giggle at the imperfections of our singing, etc., while others seek rest quite literally and have to be resurrected by their mates, while others are too busy playing peek-a-boo with the sweet babies to worship acceptably. Add to this the fact that the nursery is abused by making it a play pen for children and a chatting session for mothers, and one can see why worship has lost its punch.
C. Limited concepts. Some feel that you have to sing all verses of all songs before the songs are accepted. Others feel that you can’t use normal pronouns in addressing God (“this is disrespectful,” we are told). You must use “thee,” “thou,” “thy,” and “thine” or prayer is too chummy or buddy-buddy with God. By some quirk of reasoning the King’s language of the KJV is the only scriptural language now! To some in the 80’s the Old English of 1611 is degrading and we have no right to bind a foolish opinion on another (one has a personal right to use the KJV terminology, if he so desires, but not to bind it on others).
D. Late comers and early leavers. Few will seek their places in the midst of prayer. Yet, some think nothing of doing this during singing. Too, it is a shame to see some coming in late Sunday after Sunday, with the same old excuses as if nothing has been done that is wrong. And what a migration takes place at the rear of the building after the last song is sung. Even before the “Amen” books start falling into the racks with a chatter. When the “Amen” does come, the dash for the doors is as if someone yelled “fire!” With such distractions it is no wonder the worship has become a drudgery for some.
E. Sin. When we are involved in sin our prayers, songs, etc. are hindered. Our communion troubles our souls, the Word of the Lord pierces our hearts and our guilt cries out against us (Jas. 4:7-10).
1. Isa. 59:1-2.
2. God lashes out at such an abomination (Isa. 1:11-17).
F. Brethren, let’s remove these stumbling blocks. To refuse to do so is to sin against the brethren and God (1 Cor. 8:12). Let’s honor the Father and find strength by making worship meaningful!
II. Stepping-stones to meaningful worship.
A. An awareness of God. Israel and Isaiah trembled as they approached God (Isa. 6:5). Thunder, lightening, smoke, earthquakes and rumbling waters are symbols used to picture man’s feelings in the presence of God.
1. Our greatest problem: lack of awareness concerning God’s presence. This is due to the “me and me alone” mentality. We need a fresh recognition of the holiness, wrath, power, majesty, grace and compassion of God (“a mighty fortress is our God”).
2. Another problem is our limited view of God. To some God seems to be a forgetful, gentle, old grandfather who smiles at almost every sin in the book. To others He is cold, austere and a brutal monster that delights in our sins and who looks forward to casting us into hell. No wonder worship has little or no appeal. We must do more than whisper about God’s holiness, justice and wrath (Heb. 4:14).
B. Thoughtful preparation. The Jews had a “day of preparation” for the Passover (Ex. 12) and the Sabbath (Ex. 16:5, 22-24). This enabled them to be ready for the Lord’s bidding and facilitated their obedience to His commands.
1. While in the N.T. there is no command for such a day, the fact that we are commanded to assemble on the Lord’s Day shows that preparation should be made. Those who do not prepare for class are not usually edified; those who do not prepare for attendance usually are the latecoming disturbers whose children are fretful and restless; those who do not prepare are usually possessors of improper attitudes and whose influence is poor.
2. Those who have public part in worship should prepare. For example, who does not tire at repetitious prayers, the same songs, etc.? Would you tolerate the preacher preaching the same sermon week after week? Greater effort should be put forth by the preacher and song leader to unify their efforts. (Sermon on “baptism” should not be preceeded by a song on “to the work.”)
3. Other examples could be given, but these are sufficient to show that for worship to be holy and meaningful it must be preceeded by thoughtful and serious preparation.
C. Self-Examination. The principle (true in the Lord’s Supper) is also true in other areas of worship (1 Cor. 11:23ff). Much spiritual sickness is due to lax attitudes toward singing, etc. Giggling, flirting, whispering, etc. during worship will rob us of our richness in worship.
D. Words of Encouragement. “Men do better when taught better.” In the assembly words of encouragement should be expressed often. We must not only be against additions to worship; we need to be for the right things in worship. We need to preach more about the great need for worship.
E. The following are suggestions for making worship more meaningful.
1. Take up the cross and live for Christ daily (Lk. 9:23).
2. Spend a few minutes with God each day (1 Thess. 5:17).
3. Begin preparation for worship on Saturday by planning the clothes you will wear, your contribution, etc. “Give of your best to the Master.”
4. Arrive in plenty of time for the assembly. You can help greet the visitors and engage in meditation.
5. A few minutes before worship begins cease your conversation, quietly take your seat and reflect on a passage or hymn.
6. Fight every temptation to be distracted and to distract. Do not put on your coat or place the song book in the rack until the “Amen” is said and done.
7. Enter into worship with your whole mind, soul and strength. Sing with the understanding, meditate on the Lord’s Supper, give willingly, etc.
1. Worship is a deep and special privilege that children of God should enjoy.
2. It will be special to you if you make the effort to enter into it with the right motivation and attitude.
Guardian of Truth XXX: 23, pp. 720-722
December 4, 1986